About The Music

Dip into our programme notes for pieces presented by Music in the Round. Covering music that is forthcoming and has been recently performed, learn more about the works and also listen to brief extracts. 

About The Music: F

FARKAS Ferenc, Five Antique Hungarian Dances (version for wind quintet)

Lassú (Slow Dance) 
Lapockás tánc (Shoulder Blade Dance) 
Chorea hungaricae 
Ugrós (Leaping Dance) 

Ferenc Farkas studied with Leo Weiner at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest and later with Ottorino Respighi in Rome. On returning to Budapest in 1932, one of his first commissions was for a film score and he went on to compose extensively for film and theatre productions. At the same time, he began researching Hungarian folk music and began a distinguished teaching career: his pupils included Ligeti and Kurtág. 


This work, officially titled Antique Hungarian Dances from the 17th Century, exists in versions for various solo instruments and ensembles, with the present wind quintet version dating from 1959. In a note on the work, Farkas himself wrote that ‘compared with the rich folk-song heritage of Hungary, our ancient airs and dances that have been preserved in writing have a more modest role. For this work I have been influenced by dances of the 17th century, written by unknown amateurs in a relatively simple style … My interest in this music was first captured in the 1940s. I was so fascinated that I decided to give these melodies new life. I fitted the little dances together, in rondo form, and leaning on Baroque harmony and counterpoint, I attempted a reminiscence of that atmosphere of provincial Hungarian life at the time.’ 


© Nigel Simeone 

FARRENC Louise, Sextet in C minor Op.40

Andante sostenuto
Allegro vivace

The composer of three symphonies and an impressive body of chamber music as well as an extensive catalogue of works for piano (her own instrument), Louise Farrenc has thankfully been rediscovered after a century of neglect. Born Jeanne-Louise Dumont, she came from an artistic family and was encouraged to develop her gifts as a pianist and composer. She studied the piano with Moscheles and Hummel, and her composition teacher was Anton Reicha. In 1821 she married the flautist Aristide Farrenc who subsequently established a publishing business. After a successful career as a travelling virtuoso, Louise Farrenc was appointed professor of piano at the Paris Conservatoire in 1842, a post she held for thirty years. The Sextet for piano and wind quintet was written in 1851–2, immediately after the successful premiere of her Nonet for strings and wind (in which Joseph Joachim was one of the performers).

The first movement – the longest of the three – opens with a dramatic theme, decorated by elaborate piano writing, while the second theme is more lyrical. Broadly-conceived, this movement ends in grand style. The main theme of the slow movement is introduced by the wind alone before the being taken up by the piano, then by the whole ensemble with several short wind solos. The finale begins with an urgent and uneasy theme on the piano which gives way to a delicate second idea. But dramatic intensity is maintained throughout the movement, right up to the turbulent ending.

© Nigel Simeone

FISCHER Pavel, String Quartet No.3 Mad Piper

Mad Piper 
Sad Piper 

Pavel Fischer was a founder member and leader of the Škampa Quartet and after an extremely successful performing career, has turned increasingly to teaching and composition. His String Quartet No.3 was written in 2011 and demonstrates his fascination with integrating elements of music from different parts of the world into his work. The ‘Mad Piper’ of the title (and the first movement), evokes the Canadian bagpiper Bill Millin who continued to play while under fire on Sword Beach during the initial stages of the D-Day Landings in 1944. 


After a fast, aggressive opening (the heat of battle, perhaps?), a plaintive viola melody leads to a reprise of the initial material, followed by a serene coda. The second movement, ‘Carpathian’, is a vigorous folk dance with an unceasing, breathless drive. The slow movement, ‘Sad Piper’, was inspired by the plaintive song of a Bulgarian piper, here transformed into an eloquent viola solo, supported by quiet sustained chords. The title of the finale, ‘Ursari’ recalls the nomadic Romani bear handlers of Eastern Europe, in particular their bear dances (Bartok also composed a ‘Bear Dance’ for piano which he later orchestrated). Here the quartet takes on the role of a percussion section as well as string instruments, the music driving forwards until a brief respite for a reflective passage before the dance is taken up again with renewed energy. 


© Nigel Simeone

FITKIN Graham, Gate

In a brief note on this work, Graham Fitkin writes that ‘this piece started from one thing – a trill. The alternation of two adjacent notes gives rise to a simple and constant grouping of beats. Place it in different temporal contexts and the inherent quality of the trill is questioned.’ These are the essential component parts of Gate, but what makes the piece so compelling is the vitality and creative imagination with which these ostensibly simple ideas are expanded and mutated in a piece that moves forward with seemingly unstoppable impetus to a dizzying close. 


© Nigel Simeone

FITKIN Graham, Recur for harp and string quartet

Recur was commissioned by Aberdeenshire’s SoundFestival and written for harpist Ruth Wall and the Sacconi Quartet who gave the first performance in Aberdeen in October 2016. In his own note on the work, Fitkin writes that ‘The piece revolves around one very simple rising melodic fragment. It is in C minor of all things. It reappears throughout the piece with varying degrees of similarity. Initially there is much use of the instruments’ plucking capabilities but as the piece progresses increasingly sustained notes are integrated. I think the character of the music shifts constantly, sometimes gently over a period of time but occasionally with more obvious sudden kicks. Ostensibly though, that initial idea seems to crack on through the piece regardless.’ In his review of the premiere, David Kettle in The Scotsman described Recur as ‘a gem of a piece, sparkling with plucked textures, its four-note earworm of a tune cast in endlessly inventive new contexts, funky and foot-tapping yet also full of piquant emotion.’ 

© Nigel Simeone

FRANÇAIX Jean, Cinq danses exotiques

Pambiche. Risoluto 
Baiao. Com morbidezza 
Mambo. Allegrissimo 
Samba lenta. Tranquillo 
Merengue. Vivo com spirito 

Jean Françaix’s Cinq danses exotiques were dedicated to the great French saxophonist Marcel Mule. While the music is Françaix’s own, the characteristic rhythms of all five dances draw on traditional music from Latin America. The first, a lively ‘Pambiche’, has its origins in the island nation of Dominica, while the second, a languid ‘Baiao’ is a popular form in north-eastern Brazil. The fast ‘Mambo’ has an obsessive repeating figure in the bass which drives the music along, while the Brazilian ‘Samba lenta’ is perhaps the most expressive of the set, its music in slow, swaying 5/8 time. The Merengue is a dance from the island of Hispaniola (comprising the Dominican Republic and Haiti). Françaix’s version is quick and highly syncopated. 


© Nigel Simeone

FRANÇAIX Jean, Dixtuor

Larghetto tranquillo – Allegro 

Jean Françaix came from a musical family and took up composing at the age of six. He became a favourite pupil of Nadia Boulanger, and his youthful gifts were also recognised by Ravel. During the 1930s, his output included chamber music, orchestral pieces, ballets, the opera Le diable boiteux and an oratorio, L’Apocalypse selon Saint Jean. After World War Two, Françaix continued to produce a stream of new works, including several film scores. His style remained neo-classical, usually marked by a lightness of touch and wit. 


The Dixtuor, for string quintet and wind quintet, is one of his last major works, the manuscript dated at the end 24 October 1986. It was a commission for the Cologne-based Linos Ensemble which gave the premiere in 1987. The Dixtuor opens with a long, gentle introduction which gives way to a vigorous Allegro. The lyrical Andante opens with a melody shared by oboe and clarinet (over strings) before the rest of the ensemble join gradually. Marked Scherzando, the third movement makes virtuoso demands on the players, but it is music of genuine charm, with a slow (and endearingly odd) central Trio section. The finale is a brisk Allegro 

© Nigel Simeone 

FRANCES-HOAD Cheryl, Invocation

Invocation was originally the second movement of Melancholia, my first piano trio, written in 1999.

The piano trio is based on Melancholy, a painting by Edvard Munch that formed part of his Frieze of Life. Munch described the Frieze as a “poem of life, love and death”, and Melancholy, which depicts a man (sometimes thought to be the artist himself) looking out at the sea and oppressive sky, concludes the first of the three sections of paintings called Love blossoms and dies.

I had written a chamber opera, with all manner of instruments at my disposal, before starting my piano trio. In Melancholia I aimed at producing a much sparser music (at many points simply a melody with chordal accompaniment) in an attempt to prove to myself that I could still convey a great deal of emotion with only those notes that were absolutely necessary.


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